The Deed, not the Doer

von Maximilian Steinbeis

“It’s all a matter of perspective,” said Poland’s new Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki over and over again when CNN interviewed him last week about Poland’s refugee, EU and justice policies. All a matter of perspective. Everything can be seen in different ways, depending on your angle. We are as undogmatic, complexity-aware and pluralistic as any of those western intellectuals out there, Morawiecki seems to signal, we out-liberal the liberals in terms of tolerance for competing versions of truth. That is how the renewed PiS government apparently wants to be perceived internationally, while it calmly keeps subjugating the formerly independent judiciary and turning the publication of undesirable opinions on the subject of Nazi collaboration in occupied Poland into a potential criminal offence.

We have seen that move before. This strategy of minimizing one’s own surface for attack and appropriating positions in a way that confuses and disorientates one’s opponent is rather characteristic of that new and alarming phenomenon we call, for lack of a better term, right-wing populism. In Germany, the rankly extremist and anticonstitutional NPD ended up in insignificance, while the artfully ambiguous AfD scored third place in the latest federal elections. In France, the fearsome Jean-Marie Le Pen back in 2002 reunited La Gauche and La Droite in fierce opposition against him, whereas his smiling daughter Marine came within spitting distance of the presidency. To shake off the accusation of extremism and to appear “normal” instead is the way to success with an electorate that considers itself to be, first and foremost, normal – as in: the norm. And if you can spin those despised liberals dizzy on the the way, those guardians of the abnormal and minorities, by purposeful appropriation of their values, methods and concepts, then it works all the more beautifully ...

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